Illumination and vibrance galore as five day Diwali festival begins

New York: The five-day Diwali celebrations began Friday October 10 with Dhanteras while the festival of Diwali will be celebrated on Nov. 12. The five days of Diwali include Dhanteras, Choti Diwali, Diwali, Govardhan Puja, and Bhai Dooj. People worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, for luck and prosperity on Diwali.

The festival of Diwali is celebrated across faiths by more than a billion people in India and across the globe by the diaspora. Over five days, people take part in festive gatherings, fireworks displays, feasts and prayer.

The iconic New York city destination Empire State Building will be lit up in Diwali colors on November 12 to commemorate the festival of lights. The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA-NY-NJ-CT-NE), the leading umbrella diaspora organization, is partnering with the Empire State Building to mark the festival of lights by illuminating the iconic Manhattan building on Sunday.

With the growing importance of India and its diaspora in the global arena, the festival of lights is becoming mainstream in many countries.

In the United States, Diwali has been increasingly gaining prominence over the years—reflecting on the growing importance of India in the global arena that the then president Barack Obama recognized by personally celebrating Diwali for the first time in the White House in 2009.

Earlier in June, New York City decided to add Diwali to its list of public school holidays in recognition of the growth of the city’s South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities. The Diwali school holiday will come into effect from 2024 in the next academic year.

This was just over a month after a prominent American lawmaker introduced a Bill in the US Congress to declare Diwali a federal holiday, a move that was welcomed by different communities from across the country. The Diwali Day Act, when passed by the Congress and signed into law by the president, would make the festival of lights the 12th federally recognized holiday in the U.S.

The word ‘Diwali’ is derived from the word “Deepavali,” which means “a row of lights.” Celebrants light rows of traditional clay oil lamps outside their homes to symbolize the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.

While Diwali is a major religious festival for Hindus, it is also observed by Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. The origin story of Diwali varies depending on the region. All these stories have one underlying theme — the victory of good over evil.

Images courtesy of FIA-NY, NJ, CT and NE, India Times, X/ @USInINDIA and HT

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